One of the things expected of someone in my job is that I know things — lots and lots of things, enough to reach critical mass so that I can deal with complex issues against a fairly massive context. (More than that, of course, I need to know how the things I know fit together and interact, but that’s another subject.) That means knowing history, but being very up to the moment as to what’s happening now.
And generally, I meet that test — sometimes quite literally. I have a very good working knowledge of history and of political systems, but also popular culture. I’m good at tests of broad knowledge, and also at Trivial Pursuit. But every person’s knowledge is finite. I only know the things I know by NOT knowing a lot of things that other people take for granted. Sometimes, the things I don’t know are things people would assume I do know, such as who’s who on TV news. Other times, it’s something that other folks just keep up with without thinking, such as sports.
A couple of days ago, there was this big headline in our paper, "Bringing up Beecher," and I got this strong impression that I was supposed to know, without being told, who this Beecher was. There was a large photograph that made me think he was a football player, judging by attire, and assuming that was him. (Of course, I could have read the story, but that would be like cheating, wouldn’t it?) My eyes moved on, and I thought no more about it. Coincidentally, the next day, I was a captive audience in a meeting in which someone happened to mention that someone named "Tommy Beecher" was a relatively untested USC quarterback. Ah. Good to know. This will save me from embarrassing myself if I am surrounded by people who dwell in this alternative universe called Gamecock football (this has been known to happen). It will save me from asking my reflexive question:
"And who’s this Beecher when he’s at home?"
I am, of course, channeling George Harrison’s wonderful scene in "A Hard Day’s Night," when he’s surrounded by people for whom "Susan" is the center of the universe, and they assume she’s the center of HIS universe, and comedy ensues from that disconnect.
I often feel like George when in the company of sports fanatics. They can’t believe I don’t know who they’re talking about (although I try harder than George to hide the fact, because I don’t like shocking people; nor am I trying to be "too cool" for their enthusiasms a la George). For my part, I’m amazed they don’t get the movie allusion if I do say, "Who’s this (blank) when he’s/she’s at home?" For that reason, I seldom say it any more. I just stay quiet and try to infer what in the world they’re on about, and hope my ignorance isn’t plain to see. Because I’m supposed to know stuff.